Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jazz

Those of a certain age may remember a 1980's band called "Johnny Hates Jazz." Maybe they should have called themselves "Johnny Hates Music," or simply "Johnny Has No Taste."

How can you hate jazz? I am a little more understanding of people who hate, for example, country music. I love it, but I grew up with it and it appeals to me in many ways beyond its musicality. Bluegrass is an even better example. I like classical music, but if some people find Tchaikovsky boring, I can totally understand that.

But jazz? Jazz is like a cool drink when you're thirsty. Jazz is the feel of water covering your body as you relax in the pool on a hot day. Jazz is a full—body massage with scented oils. I guess improvisation might not be for everyone; it might not be your favourite kind of music. But hate it? I don't understand that.

I should qualify that by noting the different types of jazz, some of which are definitely less likable than others. Do you listen to bebop, bossa nova, or Dixieland? Hard bop, neo—bop, post bop? There are even such unlikely types as acid jazz, punk jazz, and ska jazz. I'll be honest, I couldn't tell you the first thing about how these forms differ. I didn't even know what type I liked myself until very recently. I have always liked jazz, but it seemed that every time I listened to an album, it wasn't quite what I wanted. For a long time, I thought I must want smooth jazz, because that is how it sounds to me. It turns out that I was actually looking for cool jazz; smooth jazz is more like elevator music. I can probably attribute my mistake to the time when I grew up, when the adjective 5 "cool" was passe and people were more likely to strive to be smooth. Cool jazz grew up after World War II, when cool was definitely the thing to be.

It's kind of surprising that I would like jazz, because I usually prefer order over spontaneity. There is, however, something incredibly satisfying to the soul to hear a saxophone wander, unpredictably but beautifully, over a string of notes, mixing in happy and sad, anxious and relaxed, leaving me feeling simply content. I find that I want to give a thumbs-up to almost every song. So, if you haven't tried jazz, open up Pandora, type in cool jazz, and give it a listen. You might understand why I am so confused about Johnny's peculiar tastes.

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